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Through Our Eyes

Reports from student journalists at Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High schools in St. Petersburg

Remembering Max

Maxwell Muennich

SNN

Maxwell Muennich

The last time senior Sonya Casey had a one-on-one conversation with Maxwell Muennich was on April 18.

"He was walking home from school and I picked him up. He was trying to give me gas money and I said, 'I don't let my friends walk,' and he said, 'I don't let my friends' gas tanks go empty'," she said.

Muennich, a Lakewood senior, was fatally shot two days later, on April 20, his 18th birthday, during a confrontation outside of his home. Police arrested former Lakewood High student Christopher Scott, 17, and charged him with first-degree murder. Police said Scott used a semi-automatic firearm.

Casey said she's known Muennich since the middle of sophomore year.

"He sat at our table and was really shy, so I spoke to him, but he ignored me every time and then we ended up becoming close," she said. "He was like a breath of fresh air. (I was) always happy to see him; he was just so easy to talk to."

Muennich's funeral was on April 25 and his girlfriend, junior Rachel Wilson, spoke about how grateful she was to have everyone there. She had been dating Muennich for almost two years and was living with his family when he died. …

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New season of “The Flash” complicated, but still fun

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As a reviewer and comic book fan, I can say that The Flash is one of the best comic-based shows on television. The effects are the selling point on the series, and show us what graphics and design are capable of when used to the fullest. You can tell the producers and writers put their hearts and themselves into this show to create the end product.

The show picks up where the last season left off. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) defeated the Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh) and opened a portal above his home in Central City. This season follows the aftermath of season 1 and brings new heroes and villains into fruition. The main force of opposition is the villain Zoom, a terrifying entity that we, the viewers, know very little about.

The plot is a little complicated because of the difficult concepts of traveling to alternate dimensions. All in all, it's about the Flash trying to overcome his weaknesses as a hero and find new ways to solve problems and be a hope for his city.

Gustin steals the show as the title character. He portrays Barry Allen's quirkiness and charisma greatly and shows real chemistry with his fellow cast members. …

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Little offense, lots of fog lead to loss against Booker

Senior Vinny Grybauskas runs to first base on March 15 at Lake Vista Park, where he grounded out. The Spartans played the Booker Tornadoes, where lack of offense led to their loss of 5-1.

Tony Rengifo | SNN

Senior Vinny Grybauskas runs to first base on March 15 at Lake Vista Park, where he grounded out. The Spartans played the Booker Tornadoes, where lack of offense led to their loss of 5-1.

The Lakewood Spartans baseball team played the Booker Tornadoes on Tuesday night at Lake Vista Park in a District 5A matchup, losing 5-1.

Entering the third inning, starting pitcher Aiden O'Dowd, a freshman, looked to keep the score tied 0-0. The Tornadoes' offense and a foggy night had different plans, as well as a couple errors by the Spartans' defense.

With runners on second and third for the Tornadoes, a sacrifice fly ran in the first run of the game for the Tornadoes in the top of the third.

The next batter was hit by the pitch, making for runners on first and third. A single by the next batter would drive in a second run for the Tornadoes, but an error, later, on the same play, the ball ending up behind the Spartans first baseman, lead the HPB runner to score all the way from first to home, a 3-0 game now, in the top of the third inning.

The Tornadoes would score again the next inning.

With a runner on second base, a Tornadoes batter popped up a ball to shallow outfield, a catchable popup for second baseman senior Vinny Grybauskas, if he had been able to see it. …

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‘You can slow a fast driver down, but you can’t speed a slow one up’

Indy Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, middle, sits with Charles Berns III, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to talk to Lakewood students on March 9 about the Grand Prix this weekend.

De'Qonton Davis | SNN

Indy Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, middle, sits with Charles Berns III, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to talk to Lakewood students on March 9 about the Grand Prix this weekend.

Indy Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay made an appearance today (Mar. 9) in the Lakewood Auditorium to talk to students about the Grand Prix coming up this weekend and what it takes to get into racing.

Lakewood High School was specially picked to have this meeting by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Hunter-Reay, who was born and currently lives in Ft. Lauderdale, has been racing since he was 16 when he started competing in go-karts.

"I started using my friend's go-kart and ran through the neighbor's yard and would piss them off," Hunter-Reay said.

Go-karts took Hunter-Reay far, all the way to Indy Car driving. As an Indy Car driver, there's a lot to keep up with to make sure you have a good race.

"You have to be successful on and off the track," Hunter-Reay said.

Hunter-Reay has to get weighed three times a weekend. He has to stay light to keep the gravity in the car centered because with the Indy Cars being small and lightweight, too much weight in the car wouldn't help as the driver turns corners.

"You can't breathe in the corner, so you have to hold your breath," Hunter-Reay said.

Kriseman to students about his experience being in an Indy Car. …

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“Z” marks a lot of spots for this chef

Chef and owner Zack Gross sits inside his downtown restaurant. Z-Grille, a contemporary American style restaurant, opened April 2, 2005. “It took all my credit cards and the mortgage of my house to open up this restaurant," Gross said.

Rachel Brown | SNN

Chef and owner Zack Gross sits inside his downtown restaurant. Z-Grille, a contemporary American style restaurant, opened April 2, 2005. “It took all my credit cards and the mortgage of my house to open up this restaurant," Gross said.

Zack Gross is not your typical chef, in appearance or approach.

Gross, who is covered in tattoos and forgoes the classic white chef's coat, white apron and toque for casual clothes while he is at work, is the owner and chef of Z-Grille in downtown St. Petersburg. The restaurant opened on April 1, 2005, on Central Avenue but then moved to Second Street S. in 2008.

The establishment was originally set to open in Pass-a-Grille, which is where the name Z-Grille originated. He decided the beach was too far from home, so he moved it to Central Avenue, keeping the name.

"After changing locations, I had no more money to change the name so we just left it at Z-Grille. Then it kind of turned into a name after Zack. Then I had a daughter named Zen, so now I just say it's named after her," Gross said.

Before starting up Z-Grille, Gross went to culinary school. He then came up with the idea to start his own restaurant.

"I didn't want to work for anyone else. If I was gonna go ahead and do it, might as well just go and try it and do it myself," Gross said. "It took all my credit cards and the mortgage of my house to open up this restaurant." …

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Two students arrested after Lakewood lockdown

Police cars sit outside of Lakewood High School after an hour-long lockdown on Friday (Feb. 6). "I think it was well executed, they did what they had to do," senior Melisa Dones said.

Elizabeth Wright | SNN

Police cars sit outside of Lakewood High School after an hour-long lockdown on Friday (Feb. 6). "I think it was well executed, they did what they had to do," senior Melisa Dones said.

Lakewood High School was on lockdown for over an hour today after a tip that a student had a gun on campus. St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman Mike Puetz said no real gun was found on campus though two students were arrested - one for disrupting a school function because of possession of a fake gun and the other for possessing an ice pick.

Lakewood went into lockdown at 10:15 a.m. within two to three minutes after the school was given the tip about a gun. During a lockdown students stay in their classrooms, the doors are locked, the windows are covered and the lights are turned off.

The campus was turned over to the St. Petersburg Police Department, principal Bob Vicari said.

"They did their own investigation," Vicari said, though he did not give any more details. "When they determine that the campus is fully safe and that everything is resolved, that's when they tell me I can let everybody go back to class."

Initially Vicari announced over the intercom that a student was arrested after a gun was found in a student's backpack.

"We did in fact find a gun in a backpack," he said over the intercom. "The kid was arrested and will not be returning to a Pinellas County school." …

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Lakewood has superior showing at International Day

Freshman Emily Flake and junior Adriana Nazarko perform a skit during the International Day celebration on Feb. 27 at Meadowlawn Middle School.

Haley Dolan | SNN

Freshman Emily Flake and junior Adriana Nazarko perform a skit during the International Day celebration on Feb. 27 at Meadowlawn Middle School.

Lakewood's foreign language students went to Pinellas County's 29th annual International Day on Feb. 27 at Meadowland Middle School. Lakewood had 26 students compete in competitions, including impromptu speaking, performance in a play and reciting memorized passages. The overall outcome for Lakewood was successful with 27 superiors, three excellents and one good.

"We are very proud of our students representing Lakewood's World Language department and state competition team," Spanish teacher Linda Santiago said.

International Day is a day where all Pinellas County students attend workshops to celebrate and learn international cultures, through various cultural activities and competitions in world language events.

Schools can also compete in a banner competition. This year's theme was "The world is at your fingertips." Lakewood did not place in the top three for the banner but did receive an excellent. …

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Lakewood teacher named trainer of the year

Lakewood athletic trainer Erika Miller talks to an injured player on the field and intern Maranda Brown tends the player’s leg.

Jorden Pompey | SNN

Lakewood athletic trainer Erika Miller talks to an injured player on the field and intern Maranda Brown tends the player’s leg.

Lakewood health and medical arts teacher Erika Miller won the Athletic Trainer of the Year Award in December at the all-star football game at Tropicana Field.

Miller was given the award - the only person in Pinellas County to win it- during halftime of the game while helping with the south county football players.

"I was very honored and surprised. My football trainers were there and were happy as well," Miller said.

"I think it's awesome. She was one of the first people I met on campus and she was always participating with the athletes and made sure they had their physicals," Lakewood Principal Erin Savage said.

Miller's trainers Casey Inman, Michelle Johnson and Miriele Paul, all of whom are seniors, also said that Miller deserved the award.

Inman, who has been an athletic trainer for one year, said working with Miller has been educational and exciting. Being able to interact with athletes and learn about their medical problems is beneficial because she wants to be a physical therapist in the future.

"She's kindhearted, determined and giving," Inman said about Miller. "She's what I would hope to be after I attend college." …

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Top of the Class

Seniors, left to right, Nicholas Fox, Tyler Bittner, Joshua Roach and Hayley Dolan are top of the class. Bittner is the Center for Advanced Technologies valedictorian and Fox is the salutatorian. Roach, an AMSET student, is a traditional valedictorian and Dolan, a CJAM student, is the salutatorian.

Nolan Zondervan | SNN

Seniors, left to right, Nicholas Fox, Tyler Bittner, Joshua Roach and Hayley Dolan are top of the class. Bittner is the Center for Advanced Technologies valedictorian and Fox is the salutatorian. Roach, an AMSET student, is a traditional valedictorian and Dolan, a CJAM student, is the salutatorian.

his year's 2015-2016 valedictorians and salutatorians for Lakewood were announced today (2/29)

The list consists of four students, two from the Center for Advanced Technologies, one from the Center for Journalism and Multimedia and another from the Aquatic Management Systems and Environmental Technology program.

Seniors Joshua Roach, Nicholas Fox, Tyler Bittener and Haley Dolan have worked hard to prove that they could be at the top of their class.

Senior Joshua Roach - traditional valedictorian

"I was surprised because I'm pretty sure that there are more people that are smarter than me. I didn't even know my GPA was that high," said Roach, an AMSET student.

Roach has been accepted into the University of South Florida-Tampa, Eckerd College, University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, University of Miami, University of Tampa and Florida Atlantic University. He's currently debating between USF and Eckerd College.

Roach said he hasn't applied for many scholarships, but he did apply for Bright Futures.

Roach gives advice for upcoming seniors, saying "don't blow off your core classes that are honors. Try to get A's and B's in those classes. It'll boost your GPA." …

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A march against gun violence

Mayor Rick Kriseman speaks to a crowd of people at a march against gun violence on Dec. 11, 2015. The march started at the Police headquarters building and ended at the “Love Your Neighborhood” mural at 22nd Street and First Avenue S. Kriseman talked about getting guns off the street and preventing future crimes from happening in our community.

Tony Rengifo | SNN

Mayor Rick Kriseman speaks to a crowd of people at a march against gun violence on Dec. 11, 2015. The march started at the Police headquarters building and ended at the “Love Your Neighborhood” mural at 22nd Street and First Avenue S. Kriseman talked about getting guns off the street and preventing future crimes from happening in our community.

A crowd of about 100 people walked about a mile from the St. Petersburg Police Department on First Avenue N on Dec. 18, 2015, to the "Love Your Neighborhood" mural at 22nd Street and First Avenue S.
Recent murders of young male teenagers in St. Petersburg had led Mayor Rick Kriseman to call for the march against gun violence.

Six young men between 16-25 years old had been murdered in a span of six weeks in the city of St. Petersburg. A seventh murder occurred over the holiday break. Jaquez Eugene Jackson, 17, was shot on Dec. 26 and died the following day in the hospital, which made it seven murders in seven weeks.

Leaders of the community and police joined Kriseman in the walk.

"I'm impressed by the amount of support we are getting," resident Tammye Moore said.

Moore said she goes to a lot of events where "there's always the same people. But today is different. Today is better."

"To say it's unfortunate would be an understatement," Moore said on the recent deaths of the young males. "We need change and improvement."

Kriseman spoke to the crowd about gun control.

"If you know someone who has a gun that shouldn't have one, tell someone," he said. …

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Key Club helps feed the homeless

People in Williams Park help themselves to food in cardboard boxes put out by Key Club members. The students made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packed other goodies into bags. The club got a grant from the city of St. Petersburg to help pay for the supplies.

Shakera Thompson

People in Williams Park help themselves to food in cardboard boxes put out by Key Club members. The students made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packed other goodies into bags. The club got a grant from the city of St. Petersburg to help pay for the supplies.

Ten cardboard boxes filled with brown paper lunch bags were lined up on the grass at Williams Park on Jan. 10 at noon. Inside each bag was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, peanut butter crackers, a granola bar, apple and bottle of water.

Lakewood High School's Key Club had made the sandwiches and put together the bags to help those who are less fortunate and don't have a stable meal every day.

"I am so happy we are doing this for the homeless; this is a Snapchat moment," Key Club vice president Sakeli Kennedy said.

Key Club is a service organization associated with Kiwanis, just the high school version. Kiwanis International is a coeducational service club founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan.

About 15 Key Club members made the bags of food inside the school cafeteria on Jan. 9 to give to the homeless. A group of eight students - four on the jelly side and four on the peanut butter side - made the sandwiches. The rest of the students bagged the other items.

To get all of the items for this community service project Key Club president Karianne Kapfer and vice president Kennedy wrote a letter for a grant. The grant came from St. Pete Promise Mayor's Service Learning Challenge grant. …

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No gates no guards

Jade Smith | SNN

Lakewood High School's new algebra teacher Adam Joerres says that the difference between working at Lakewood rather than the Pinellas County jail - his former place of employment - is that he doesn't need a guard to open a door for him.

After working the last semester in jail helping students get their GEDs, Joerres finds himself in a different environment at Lakewood. He says that the main difference between working here than the jail, and that students here get more free time.

Originally hired at the jail to teach ESOL, a program for students who don't speak English as their primary language, Joerres went on to teach math, science, and English to the student inmates depending on their needs.

"We had people who went through the system pretty quickly in terms of getting their GEDs, and we had people who couldn't even do division. It was drastically different," he said.

Some everyday things Joerres saw in the jail were just normal interactions between the guards and the inmates. He said he didn't see too many crazy things on the day-to- day basis. …

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‘I’m breaking the stereotype’

Special to SNN

People like to stereotype pregnant teens, making it seem like everything is impossible after they have had a baby. The stereotypes say that pregnant teens won't finish high school, won't go to college and won't do anything with their lives as far as a career.

Parenthood is the leading reason that teen girls drop out of school. According to the TeenHelp website, only one-third of teenage mothers complete high school and receive their diplomas and fewer than 2 percent of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.

I'm Elizabeth Wright and I'm a senior. I am currently the mom of 2 1/2 -month-old Raiden Bouey. My junior year I got pregnant in the middle of the school year. When I first found out, I was terrified like any other teen.

When I finally told my family, I received negativity and disappointment. My dad told me I wasn't going to finish school and wasn't going to go to college or do anything with my life. Two months after I told my dad, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and he died in May.

After disappointing my dad, it didn't take too long for me to realize I have to keep going for my future.

I like to say I'm breaking stereotypes because my pregnancy isn't stopping me from achieving my goals. My goals are to finish high school, go to college and have a career in photojournalism.

I'm in school about to graduate, and I have plans to go to St. Petersburg College next fall. With me being a mom now I can't go to a university like I wanted, but I can still go to a college. Even though you have to give up something's there's always another option.

Four weeks after having my baby I came back to school motivated to finish. I'm graduating and going to college - so what stops other teen moms? A lot of teens get unmotivated and start to have the give-up-everything attitude because they have a baby. This is why pregnant teens are stereotyped because a lot of teens prove these crazy assumptions to be true.

I feel that a lot of teens get pregnant and become lazy because it's the expectation that they will drop out. They use the pregnancy as an excuse for them not accomplishing their goals.

But I wanted to graduate, and there were so many people making sure it would happen by giving me support and different options. Just here at Lakewood I got advice and help from principal Erin Savage, assistant principal Harriet Davis, social worker Janine Comegys, counselor Kadyianne Jackson and several people from All Children's Baby Place.

What I found is that the "impossible" is very possible, and my experience proves that a baby doesn't have to stop you from your goals.

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Up and coming artist making waves

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"Pull up, skrr, get in the ride."

That's a lyric from Bryson Tiller's song Don't, and it's one reason Tiller's music is going worldwide.

The music of Tiller, 23, a contemporary R&B songwriter and singer, is on the rise. The R&B artist who also raps came from Louisville, Ky. Tiller, who was homeless at the time, got a career boost from Timbaland and Drake when they discovered him last summer and helped promote his music. Tiller's music was jumpstarted through Sound Cloud, an app that enables its users to upload, record, promote and share originally-created sounds. Not to mention that just a year ago he was living in his car and working three jobs while creating music.

TRAPSOUL, Tiller's debut album, was released in October 2015.In addition to Don't, the album includes top hits Sorry Not Sorry, Exchange and Overtime.

Tiller's music has a true message and a story behind it. He`s not like other artists because he takes risks and stays behind the scenes. He wants to change the world with his music. He`s a no-drama type of guy. You never hear anything negative about him. He makes music, takes care of his child, and does what he loves without getting into any other conflict with others. …

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Spartans defense key in win

Spartan football members stand on the sidelines watching the game against the St. Petersburg Green Devils

De'Qonton Davis | SNN

Spartan football members stand on the sidelines watching the game against the St. Petersburg Green Devils

In their first home game of the season, the Lakewood Spartans football team played against the St. Petersburg Green Devils on Friday at Lakewood High School, beating them 34-20. A defense that recovered fumbles, made interceptions and got the ball due to multiple turnover on downs was the winner on Friday night.

"The whole defense worked as a team. (The) defense stepped up big. (They) rose to the challenge," Defensive Coordinator Phil Muszynski said.

With a little over two minutes in the first and on their one yard line, the Green Devils fumbled the ball, the ball popping out into the air, when senior Jimmy Faulks caught and ran down the field for a 99-yard touchdown return.

"Pretty much a lot of adrenaline. I just grabbed the ball and ran straight to the sidelines. Once I beat the first defender I knew I was going for 99 yards," Faulks said on the play.

A lead of 6-0 was short lived when the Green Devils scored on a kickoff return, and the score was 6-6 at the end of the first. The Green Devils missed their PAT while the Spartans failed on a two-point conversion. …

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